Older Than the Old Testament | Ready Player One Meets Indiana Jones
June 9, 2020
“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
A Modern Day Story That Seems Older Than the Old Testament
(Majid Saeedi via Getty Images)
In some societies, those who commit murder can escape punishment through unique exceptions in their country’s laws. Sometimes, these exceptions can defy reason, like in Iran.
An Iranian child’s father and paternal grandfather are considered legal guardians. Under the Shariah mandate of “an eye for an eye,” murder is subject to the death penalty. But the penal code, based on Islamic law, exempts a guardian from capital punishment for killing a child. In other words, a father who kills his child escapes the death penalty. But a mother who kills her child does not.
Last month, before 37-year-old Reza Ashrafi beheaded his 14-year-old daughter with a farming sickle — fearing the girl would run off with her 29-year-old boyfriend and dishonor the family — he checked with a lawyer. The lawyer assured Ashrafi that, at most, he would get only a few years in jail.
So called “honor killings” might be rare in Iran, or perhaps they’re just not often reported. This particular honor killing has shocked the nation and forced an examination of Iran’s failure to protect women and children. The Islamic patriarchy that has governed Iran for four decades doesn’t allow changing Shariah. But some Islamic legal scholars and women’s rights activists argue the guardianship exception is based not on words of the Quran or sacred texts, but on tradition and interpretations.
President Hassan Rouhani asked Parliament to quickly pass legislation to protect women that would criminalize emotional, sexual and physical abuse and impose jail time for violators. (This bill has been pending in Parliament for eight years.) Meanwhile, conservatives defend existing laws, and blame the victim herself for promiscuity and disobeying religious and cultural strictures. And even if the new bill becomes law, it wouldn’t change the punishment for a father who kills his child. (NYT)
“Ms. Merkel, Let Me Put Up This Wall!”
(WPA Pool via Getty Images)
- Last week’s call between President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel started out friendly, but quickly turned frosty. Citing the ongoing pandemic, Merkel told the president she wouldn’t be attending the G7 meeting he wanted to host in Washington this month. Trump responded with a scatter-shot monologue about his frustrations with the Group of 7, NATO, and the World Health Organization. Even as citizens rioted in the streets, Trump said America was doing great, and the pandemic was all China’s fault.
- One week later Merkel learned that the US will downsize its troop level in the country by more than a quarter. Some 9,500 soldiers stationed in Germany, whose job has been to help keep peace on the continent, will be withdrawn in the next three months. There was no warning, and no official notification given of the president’s plans. Allies were similarly surprised by Trump’s announcement that the US would leave the World Health Organization.
- The lack of consultation, uncertainty and unpredictability in dealing with the US president have become hallmarks of his years in office. Officials and analysts say Trump hasn’t just upended the trust individual allied nations had in America, but that he’s shaken trust in the strategic foundation of the trans-Atlantic alliance itself. (NYT)
- Trump’s troop cut in Germany blindsided senior U.S. officials, sources say (Reuters)
Looks Like We’re Hitting The 30’s Ahead Of Schedule
- The World Bank (WB) warns that the coronavirus pandemic has triggered the most widespread global economic meltdown in 150 years, and will fuel a dramatic rise in poverty levels. As many as 90 percent of the world’s 183 economies are expected to suffer from falling levels of GDP in 2020, even more than the 85 percent of nations that suffered from recession during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
- The Washington-based organization — which provides loans and grants to developing and emerging economies to help tackle poverty — issues its Global Economic Prospects report every six months. The WB said this year’s expected shrinkage of 5.2 percent in world GDP would be the steepest since WWII.
- It expects economic activity among advanced economies to shrink 7 percent, as domestic demand and supply, trade, and finance is severely disrupted by the spread of the disease and the lockdown measures used to contain it. (Guardian)
Leaping Tiger Visible Dragon
- Pressures increasing on Indonesia and Malaysia in the South China Sea (CNN)
- Taiwan says warns off Chinese fighters which approached island (Reuters),
- US could derail China’s economic recovery from coronavirus: Deutsche Bank (CNBC)
- ‘Retrieving our Hong Kong’: pro-democracy protesters mark one year on the streets (Guardian)
- China Has Dominated the West Before: As China comes into greater conflict with the West, now is a good time to consider the long arc of the relationship. (Atlantic, $)
- Daily Pnut: China is beginning to fill the void that was American international influence as America focuses inward on pandemic and protests.
- These 7 countries have the most worrying Covid-19 outbreaks: India, Brazil, and South Africa have some of the world’s most alarming Covid-19 trends. (Vox)
- Satellite images of Wuhan may suggest coronavirus was spreading as early as August (CNN)
- In New Zealand, shopping, parties and big hugs mark start of ‘COVID-free’ life (Reuters)
- 14 states and Puerto Rico hit highest seven-day average of new coronavirus infections (WaPo, $)
- This link takes you straight to a pdf download: What will change after the pandemic? Read the new e-book (Reuters) This is a really good e-book chalked with fascinating vignettes on how the pandemic has and will change the way we live. We thought the e-book was equivalent to one of the best Economist editions but free. And who doesn’t love a free e-book?
Old McDonald Had Some Explaining To Do: E-I-E-(I-O-U) For Votes
- The Trump administration is sending another $16 billion in additional subsidies to farmers, and critics are concerned the funds are being used to ensure the president maintains the backing of one of his key voting blocs. One study showed that in 2019 cotton farmers were paid 33 times as much in federal subsidies as the income they actually lost to trade disruptions.
- Another study found that farmers in Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s home state of Georgia were paid more in federal aid per acre than anywhere in the nation. Some farms collected millions of dollars in payments despite a limit of $250,000 per farmer. The administration’s $28 billion effort to compensate farmers for its trade wars was criticized for being excessive and tilted toward states politically important to Republicans.
- Now, with the 2020 election just months away, the administration is starting to send farmers in some major battleground states tens of billions more, to offset losses from the coronavirus pandemic. But questions are arising about how the money will be allocated, and whether there is sufficient oversight to safeguard against partisan abuse of the program. (NYT)
- Georgia GOP Fears Changing Demographics Could End Party’s Long Dominance (NPR)
A Nation That Lockdowns Together, Survives Together
- A research study at UC Berkeley that examined how stay-at-home orders and other restrictions limited the spread of the contagion found that lockdowns prevented about 60 million Covid-19 infections in the US and 285 million in China.
- A separate study from epidemiologists at Imperial College London estimated the shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the UK, and dropped infection rates by an average of 82 percent, sufficient to drive the contagion well below epidemic levels.
- The two reports were published simultaneously Monday in the journal Nature, and used completely different methods to reach similar conclusions. But both reports came with a clear warning that the pandemic is far from over; the overwhelming majority of people remain susceptible to the virus. Only about 3 to 4 percent of people in the countries being studied — China, the US, France, Italy, Iran and South Korea — have been infected to date, said the senior author of the Imperial College London study. “This is just the beginning of the epidemic: we’re very far from herd immunity. The risk of a second wave happening if all interventions and precautions are abandoned is very real.” (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Joe Biden has a really big lead in the polls (Vox), The past few weeks have been the worst weeks of the Trump presidency.
- Biden Walks a Cautious Line as He Opposes Defunding the Police (NYT, $)
- The crackdown before Trump’s photo op (WaPo, $)
- Trump to restart rallies in upcoming weeks, campaign says (WaPo, $) We think this time around Trump’s rallies will rally his base. First these rallies could result in a spike in COVID-19 cases. Second, we think this time around Trump does not have a strong pulse and understanding of what many Americans care about and the pandemic, economy, and protests have shown that he’s a weak leader.
- It’s official: U.S. economy entered recession in February (Reuters)
- Speculative Fervor in U.S. Stocks Surges to ‘Stunning’ Levels (Bloomberg, $)
Black Lives Matter
- George Floyd murder suspect Derek Chauvin has bail set at $1.25m (BBC)
- Democrats unveil ambitious plan for police reform: ‘This is a first step’ (Guardian)
- Yes, American police act like occupying armies. They literally studied their tactics (Guardian)
- Police unions dig in as calls for reform grow (CNN)
- Supreme Court Weighs Qualified Immunity For Police Accused Of Misconduct (NPR)
Ready Player Many Meets Raiders of the Thrill of The Chase
- Famed art and antiquities collector Forrest Fenn, 89, who claimed he hid $1million in treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountain wilderness in 2009, announced Sunday the treasure chest had been found. A hunter from back East who wants to remain anonymous located the chest a few days ago.
- Fenn didn’t reveal the exact location where the chest had been hidden, but said the find was confirmed from a photograph the man sent him. In order to find the 10in-by-10in bronze box of gems, gold, cash and precious antiquities hidden by the eccentric millionaire — treasures now worth about $2 million — hunters had to solve the clues in a cryptic poem written by Fenn, published in his 2010 autobiography The Thrill of the Chase. He also posted clues to the treasures whereabouts online.
- Interest in the riches was minimal until a United Airlines inflight magazine published an article about it in 2013. That “changed everything,” and Fenn says he received 1,200 emails the next day. Hundreds of thousands of people wound up searching in vain across remote corners of America’s West, and over the years the hunt transformed, consumed and even destroyed lives.
- In 2016, a man named Randy Bilyeu went missing while searching in northern New Mexico. Since his death, at least three others — some say as many as five — have perished while searching. Bilyeu’s ex-wife blames Fenn for every one of them. But Fenn is proud that the search has led so many people into the great outdoors. (Guardian)
- Underwater drones join hunt for trillions in mineral riches trapped on ocean’s floor (CNBC)
- Additional trailers
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Humphrey Bogart in one of his finest films.
- Ready Player One, the book was so much better than the movie. We can’t think of many movies that were just as good or better than the book.
- Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark: There’s a new Indiana Jones movie coming out in 2022. Hopefully by then it’ll be safe to go out to see movies at a theater.
- Movie Theaters Face Their Biggest Summer Thriller Yet (WSJ, $)
- Best free Amazon Prime Movies now: 46 streaming films for June 2020 (USA Today)
- The greatest decade in cinema history? (BBC)
- How Hollywood has tried, and mostly failed, to tackle police racism (Guardian)
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU